California residents may be interested in a complicated case involving a Texas woman who has sued her ex-husband for a share of his compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment. Experts say it may be the first property division case of its kind. The couple was married with a roofing business and a young child when the husband was wrongly convicted on sex crime charges in 1982 and 1983. The convictions were based largely on eyewitness accounts, and the wife had testified that that her husband could not have committed the crimes. He later pleaded guilty to a third set of charges to avoid a life sentence.
After 24 years in prison, the man was released when new DNA evidence showed that another person was guilty of the crimes. Under a new Texas law, the man received over six million dollars in compensation from the state for the time he spent in prison. He and his wife divorced in 1992, but she filed a suit against the man, claiming that she was entitled to a portion of the money for her suffering during his imprisonment. She stated in the suit that she spent money on items for his support, travel to visit him and lost compensation that he could have earned had he not been in prison.
In 2012, a district court awarded the ex-wife $150,000 largely based on the testimony of an expert who said she lost $133,000 in her share of her husband’s lost compensation. She appealed the decision and the case is expected to go to the Texas Supreme Court to decide whether ex-spouses are entitled to any share of an exonerated inmate’s compensation.
Although the specifics of this case are unusual, the emotions and complexity are not. Divorce and property division cases can be intense because both parties have deep emotional investments in the outcome. An attorney with divorce experience could help evaluate the details of a client’s situation, advocate their case and negotiate for the most favorable outcome.
Source: The Monitor, “Exoneree faces ex-wife in compensation lawsuit“, Brandi Grissom, June 18, 2013